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Analyzing the round-robin schedule: Flyers in unique position with first and last games

The Flyers got an interesting draw in the round-robin schedule.

Buffalo Sabres v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

The NHL and NHLPA officially announced the ratification of the Return to Play plan and a four-year extension to the CBA on Friday night. There is a lot to dig into in the Return to Play plan, but the most important thing is the schedule for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

If everything goes smoothly through training camps and exhibition games, the NHL will resume with the Stanley Cup Qualifiers on Saturday, August 1st, just 22 days after ratifying the plan. The opening day will see five games between teams in the best-of-five series, while the round-robin games will start on Sunday, August 2nd.

That’s where the Flyers come in.

The Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, and Philadelphia Flyers will each play each other once to determine the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference. All games will take place in the Toronto hub.

The Flyers’ schedule is as follows:

  • August 2nd at Boston
  • August 6th vs. Washington
  • August 9th at Tampa Bay

The Flyers are in a unique position regarding the schedule for the round-robin tournament. The schedule worked out in such a way that they will play in both the first and last game of the round robin in the Eastern Conference. No team in the Western Conference is in this position. This could give the Flyers an interesting advantage, or disadvantage.

The order of the Flyers’ opponents could also be a factor. They will start out with what will likely be their most competitive game; it was the opponent that they had a back-and-forth series with in the regular season at least. The Flyers went 2-0-1 against the Bruins in the regular season, with both of their wins coming in the shootout. The only game to end in regulation was the final game of the season for the Flyers, a 2-0 loss at home.

Each of the three games against the Bruins were hard-fought contests, and it should be a good matchup to start out the round robin with. The Flyers may be able to come out of it with a win, or hopefully an overtime loss at the very least. After a few exhibition games to shake some rust off and get things going, a game against the Bruins should really get the juices flowing.

The Flyers will then have three days off while they watch their foes face off. The Capitals and Lightning will play on August 3rd, and then the Lightning and Bruins will play on August 5th. Both of the Atlantic Division teams will have played two games by the time the Flyers and Capitals take the ice for their second game of the round robin.

This should be the game that the Flyers have the best chance to win.

The Capitals won the first meeting between the two teams in a shootout, but the Flyers had Washington’s number in the second half of the season. The Flyers turned things around with a 3-2 win on January 8th against the Capitals, then took it to them with a 7-2 win in Washington a month later. They closed out the season series with another road win in Washington, taking down the Capitals 5-2. A 12-4 goal differential in the final two meetings has to have the Flyers feeling good heading into their game against the Capitals.

After a day off for all four teams, the Bruins and Capitals will close out their three-game slate on August 8th. That leaves the Flyers-Lightning matchup as the final game of the round robin. The fates of Boston and Washington will already be decided, and all the cards will be on the table. On top of that, the Flyers will also likely know which team is waiting to play each of the top four seeds. Game 5 of the Rangers-Hurricanes and Canadiens-Penguins are scheduled for August 8th, with two potential Game 5s (Blue Jackets-Maple Leafs, Panthers-Islanders) scheduled for August 9th.

If the Flyers won their first two games, this game could very well be for the No. 1 seed in the East. Even in the worst-case scenario of losses to Boston and Washington, the Flyers could use the third game as a measuring stick against the Lightning, who they could very well see later in the playoffs. In any case, the Flyers will know what they need to do (win or lose in overtime) to secure which seed.

Unfortunately for the Flyers, they haven’t been very successful against the Lightning in recent years. During the 19-6-1 stretch that the Flyers went on, they lost both games against the Lightning. The 1-0 loss at home was a close game, but the 5-3 loss in Tampa Bay wasn’t as close as the score makes it seem. On the other hand, this round will be considered the playoffs, and the Lightning don’t exactly have a great track record in the postseason.

While the Flyers are in a unique situation regarding the schedule, it’s important to remember that they have nowhere to go but up. They are coming in as the fourth-best team in the round robin, and can only improve upon that. If they are able to find their game quickly and win all three games, they take the No. 1 seed and run into the playoffs. If they win a game or two, maybe they move up to the No. 2 or No. 3 seed. Even if they go winless – which would be pretty disappointing –, it doesn’t really matter and it’s just a three-game buffer before the real danger begins in a best-of-seven series.

We are just three weeks away from hockey if the players and staff can stay safe inside the bubble. Let’s hope they can do just that.

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